What is houseplant root pruning? How to keep your plants from outgrowing their pots and your home

Plant experts explain what is houseplant root pruning and whether your plants need it asap

A dining room with wishbone chairs and extra large houseplant in the corner
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

Are you fed up with constantly upgrading the size of your plant’s pot every time you’re repotting it? In all fairness, this is not much of an issue with smaller houseplants. But it becomes a problem with large varieties like monstera or alocasia, which could easily outgrow every pot you own and your home altogether. But there is something you can do to prevent that from happening – let us introduce you to houseplant root pruning.

What is houseplant root pruning, you might ask. In a nutshell, it’s a way to keep your best houseplant from becoming root-bound, or overgrown or to promote healthy root development. Or all of the above. 

But to explain further, we’ve asked our plant experts to break down the practice of root pruning, how to do it and why it’s good for your plants. Or not.

A blue-painted home office with houseplants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

What is houseplant root pruning?

Also known as root trimming, we first came across houseplant root pruning through a TikTok video by @mariahgrows showing her severely root-bound and overgrown monstera plant as the content creator slices through the bottom part of the root structure with a knife. 

@mariahgrows

Was it worth it? 🤔

♬ original sound - Mariah

Which got us curious about why she did that and whether it’s something experts would recommend, especially if you have some of the best fast-growing houseplants on your hands. And what it is that we had just witnessed to begin with.

‘Root pruning is an important part of houseplant maintenance that involves removing a portion of the roots to encourage new growth and promote better overall plant health,’ explains Petar Ivanov, Fantastic Gardeners' gardening and plant expert.

Petar Ivanov portrait
Petar Ivanov

Petar Ivanov is one of the company's top-performing experts and manages over six teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

A garden room with a large window and large houseplants

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

What is root pruning good for?

There are three main reasons why you might want to root prune your best indoor plant

‘If your container plant is root-bound or growing too vigorously for your liking, it may be suitable for root pruning,’ Petar sums up the first two reasons.

Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, elaborates, ‘Making sure your plant doesn't become root-bound (when the roots completely fill up the pot that the plant's in) is essential, as root-bound plants generally can't grow any more. This is the primary reason why someone might want to prune the roots of their houseplants.’

He continues, ‘Controlling your plant's size and growth is also important (especially in the home) as it prevents plants from outgrowing their space. By root pruning, you can limit the overall size of the plant and ensure it remains in proportion to its container, and to your home.’

The third and final reason is to contribute to your plant’s healthy root development. 

‘It also helps promote healthy root development by stimulating new growth and therefore creating stronger roots overall. The healthier and stronger the roots, the more efficient water and nutrient absorption will be. This in turn prevents root rot, which can be a major concern for houseplants,’ Steve says.

A dining room with wishbone chairs and extra large houseplant in the corner

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)
Steve Chilton portrait
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field. As the director of LeisureBench, an industry-leading garden furniture company, Steve has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. 

What you'll need

How to prune your houseplant’s roots?

If you want to give root trimming a go then there are some guidelines you need to follow. While adopting the technique of @mariahgrows and just slicing off the bottom layer of your plant’s bound roots is one way, there is a safer method to do this as recommended by pros.

‘To correctly root prune, you need to first carefully remove the plant from its pot,’ Steve explains. ‘Loosen the root ball and use clean shears to trim away any dead and damaged roots. Then remove any excessively long roots.’

Then finish up by repotting the plant in fresh soil.

A bed with a cat on top and rattan storage boxes underneath and a large houseplant to the side

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

FAQs

Is root pruning necessary?

Root pruning your houseplants isn’t necessary unless your plant is root-bound, outgrowing its pot or your space or showing signs of poor root development.

How much root to cut off?

‘Remove a third of the total amount of root, evening out the amount of foliage and root,’ Steve advises. ‘Be really careful not to over-prune here as this could prevent the roots from taking in any new nutrients.’

Pruning shears (or knife) at the ready then!

Sara Hesikova
News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.